Monday, December 14, 2009

iTunes vs. Kindle

So I just got my Kindle and love it! I plowed through three books in the first week I had it and haven't slowed down since. It's really easy to find and download books and the e-ink display is sharp and crisp. Best of all, it's not chained to iTunes.


Here's why iTunes sucks; every song is encoded as AACs, which is a propriety format owned by Apple. This means the songs you bought and paid good money for won't play on anything but an iPod. That sucks, but what really sucks is Apple's crappy customer service.

My iTunes account was recently hacked by some d-bag who loves Chris Brown (really, Chris Fking Brown?). They rang up $40 in fraudulent charges. Apple's response; all sales are final. It was like pulling teeth to get a refund. I trusted Apple with my credit card and they couldn't protect my financial information. Not only that, but they didn't care enough to address my concerns or respond to my emails. Good times.

I'm sure Crapple will be rolling out their own eReader sometime soon. I hope it fails miserably. I'm sick of being locked into Apples proprietary system, not being able to do what I want with my digital content, and having to fight for decent customer service. From now on, all my mp3s will come from Amazon (which will play on ANY device).

Going to Europe

My girlfriend and I are heading to Europe this May. We'll be going to Zurich, Interlaken, Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, and Venice. This will be my fifth big Europe trip, but her first, so I'm really excited to show her around and experience the culture together.


You know what else is cool about traveling in Europe? If you have an accident or get sick, you won't be bankrupted by medical bills because (like the rest of the civilized world) Europe has universal health care. It may be wishful thinking, but given that we're the wealthiest nation on Earth, maybe someday we too can have a health system that doesn't destroy families and deny coverage to millions of our citizens. Lookout Canada, we're catching up!

My new toy

So after spending a couple months looking at bikes, I narrowed my options down to the Ducati Monster 696 and the Harley Davidson Sportster Iron 883. The 2009 Monster has a newly revamped engine cranking out 80hp and a dry weight of just 355lbs. This gives it an absolutely insane power to weight ratio. However, lighter bikes like the Monster tend to feel a bit jumpy on the banged up asphalt of Los Angeles and the riding position is built for the corners, not long rides up the coast.


The Iron 883 is definitely more sedate with a dry weight of 548lbs, but still cranks out 55 foot pounds of torque vs. the Monster's 50, so it still has a nice pull off the line. The blacked out styling looks great and the straighter drag bars give a good grip for tall guys like me.

In the end, these are really two extremely different bikes with two distinct purposes. Even though I love carving up the corners of Mulholland Drive and the Angeles Crest, I also wanted a bike that I could comfortably commute to work on or take on 100+ mile rides. The Harley was the best fit for my needs and style, so that's the bike I bought.

Of course, once you buy a Harley, you have to make it your own. I wanted to take my girlfriend riding with me, so I picked up the Badlander seat and the short rail sissy bar with detachable side plates. This turned out to be a great combo. It maintains the low, flowing lines of the bike, has plenty of padding, and provides enough support so my girl doesn't fall off the back when we nail a pothole. After racking up 700 miles on my bike, I'm still glad I went with the Harley.

Monday, September 14, 2009

10 Los Angeles Adventures for Under $200

  1. Cruise up the PCH to Malibu on a rumbling Harley (motorcycle license required, $140).
  2. Head out on the ocean from Marina Del Rey and watch the dolphins and seals lounging around the Santa Monica Pier ($115).
  3. Ride the Palm Springs tram and snowshoe in the cool alpine forests of the San Jacinto wilderness (tram $24 per person, snowshoe rental about $20 at REI).
  4. Take the lifts to the top of Big Bear and mountain bike down miles of trails (lift $20 all day, bike $40 per day).
  5. Learn to surf in Santa Monica ($75 group lesson includes board and wetsuit).
  6. Go horseback riding in Griffith Park ($75 per person).
  7. Fly high above the ocean side cliffs of Torrey Pines ($150, all equipment included).
  8. Go under the sea and learn to scuba dive at Catalina Island ($67 round trip ferry to Catalina Island, $110 intro dive, all equipment included).
  9. Always wanted to be a pilot? Take control on an intro flight up the California coast ($99 per person).
  10. Climb the walls at an indoor rock climbing center ($99 intro lesson, all equipment included).
Enjoy!
Richard

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

Write your representative about health care

House of Representatives
Senate:


Dear Mr. Berman,

Please take action on universal
health care. America remains the wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth, but it is a national disgrace that so many of our citizen lack access to health care. We must have universal health care and there must be a public option to spur competition amongst insurance providers. Every other industrialized nation in the world provides universal health care and does so at a lower cost than America's dysfunctional private system. Please show the leadership and political willpower to carry through this reform. The Democrats were elected with a mandate of reform. There are no more excuses for inaction. The people want change.

Thank you,
Richard
Los Angeles

Friday, June 12, 2009

Tokyo pictures

I'm finally getting around to posting my Tokyo pics. Sophia and I went in the last week of May and spent four days exploring the city and countryside. The first couple of pictures are of the Tokyo Tower right outside our hotel. Next are some shots of the Tsukiji fish market and the fisherman's temple followed by the Asakusa temple. All of the green natury pics and forest temples are from Nikko, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The wall of sake containers is from the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. Then its on to the craziness of Tokyo and the calm oasis of the Imperial Gardens. The kitten costs $4,000, so it warrants a picture.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thank you FTC!

Remember all those annoying calls that began 'This is your second notice. Your vehicle warranty is about to expire...'? Well, the FTC has finally tracked down and sued the three companies running the scam. The original FTC complaint includes a 'Prayer for Relief' seeking to claw back the ill-gotten gains of these companies. I hope their prayer is answered.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Going to Tokyo

Dawn's blog got me thinking about it and this deal was too good to pass up, so Sophia and I are going to Tokyo next week. Konichiwa!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Add Give.a.Clik to your iGoogle page!

Give.a.Clik is a Free and Easy way to help your favorite charities. Search the web with Give.a.Clik and every time you click on a sponsored link a donation will be made to your favorite charity. Add it to your iGoogle page now!

Add to Google American Cancer Society

Add to Google American Red Cross

Add to Google Boys & Girls Club

Add to Google Feed The Children

Add to Google Habitat For Humanity

Add to Google International Medical Corps

Add to Google Special Olympics

Add to Google The Nature Conservancy

Add to Google United Way

Saturday, May 9, 2009

I started a charity, www.GiveAClik.org!

Here's how it works: Give.a.Clik is a search engine powered by Google. Every time you click on a sponsored link, the ad revenue is donated to the charity of your choice!

Please go to http://www.giveaclik.org/, choose a charity, and do something good for your community.

Thank you!
Richard

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What I did today

Sometimes I really love living in LA. This weekend is Sophi's birthday, so we rented a boat at Marina Del Rey and went out on the ocean. We had a great time; running full throttle over the waves, hanging out with the sea lions by the Santa Monica pier, and cruising miles offshore into the open ocean. On the way back we spotted a dolphin, then another, then another. We got in closer and soon the dolphins were racing under the bow and jumping alongside the boat. It was really incredible to get so close to these amazing creatures. We even saw a baby dolphin, just three feet long, swimming with its mother. What a fantastic day.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Roadtrip to Mono Lake

Last weekend Sophi and I went on a road trip to Mono Lake. The drive followed the Owens Valley in Eastern California between the snow capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Inyo Mountains (beyond which lies Death Valley). Every vista was a panoramic of jagged peaks rising above the sparse desert valley. We passed through an endless parade of small, half-abandoned towns before finally making it to the alpine forests of the Mammoth Lakes region. Then we snaked through the mountains until we reached Mono Lake, just East of Yosemite. The lake was interesting, but not spectacular, so we decided to try for Yosemite. Unfortunately, the most direct path was closed, so we looped North to Lake Tahoe and cut through the mountains of the Eldorado National Forest. The sun was bright, but the ground was covered in several feet of snow and the lakes were frozen from the winter. After winding through the mountains we came to the lush, green rolling hills of the Central Valley. Finally, we reached Stockton and followed I5 back to LA. We drove 900 miles and saw only half the state. California is truly amazing.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Aquarium of the Pacific

Honda Shadow vs. Harley Davidson Sportster


So a couple weeks back I decided to rent a Honda Shadow to see how it stacked up against the Harley Davidson Sportster. First, I looked at the specs. The Shadow is 30 lbs lighter than the Sportster, so I thought it might feel a little bit more nimble. However, the Sportster has some advantages; its engine is 17% bigger and it has electronic fuel injection and dual disc brakes (the Shadow uses a single carb and has a rear drum brake). Features aside, the ride is what really matters.

I took the surface streets from LAX through Hollywood and Glendale then on to the Angeles Crest Highway. As I wound up the curves the air got colder and colder. By the time I hit the Red Box station there was snow on the ground and the road was covered in sand and rock, but the view from the Mt. Wilson Observatory was incredible.

After a long day of riding, I have to say the Sportster outperformed the Shadow hands down. The Sportster’s low, narrow frame gives a solid, responsive feel where the wider Shadow felt loose in the corners. The shifts on the Shadow were sloppy and it was an endless ordeal to find neutral. Lastly, the controls on the Sportster were much more refined than the Shadow’s, especially the Sportster's auto-cancelling turn signals. Both bikes start at around $7k, but the Sportster is definitely the better value.



FOLLOWUP:


After writing this article, I went on to buy a Harley-Davidson Sportster; the Iron 883. At 883cc's, this is Harley's smallest engine, but it's still 134cc's bigger than the Honda Shadow and has a base price that's $250 less. Honda has stepped up their game and added fuel injection, but they still use drum brakes in the back. After putting about 3,000 miles on my Harley, I'm quite pleased with my decision. The Harley has held up well and performs great, even when riding with my wife on the back. Neither bike is really designed for long-haul touring (for that, consider a bigger and heavier bike), but for tearing up the mountain roads of Southern California, I couldn't be happier.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Valentine’s Day in SF and Harleys in the Hills

So for Valentine’s Day, Sophia and I went up to San Francisco. The weather was wet and cold, but we had a great time nonetheless.


On Saturday we arrived at the Orchard Hotel, took a cable car to Pier 39, and warmed up with an amazing lunch of clam chowder and fish and chips at Alioto’s, a restaurant on the pier that’s been in the same Italian family since 1925. Then we walked through little Italy and Chinatown before grabbing a quiet dinner near our hotel. The next day we headed back to Pier 39 and took the ferry to Sausalito, a sleepy little bayside town dotted with quaint cafes, art galleries, and boutiques. After a lazy afternoon of shopping and tea, we returned to the city and took a cab to the Coit Tower, a 200+ foot observation tower with spectacular views of the city. That night, we had dinner with friends at Morton’s. Their Cajun rib eye steak is incredible. Monday morning we grabbed breakfast with Sophia’s friend at Taylor’s Refresher, a simple and delicious burger joint in the Ferry Building. We spent the afternoon with my Aunt and Uncle sipping Rosé wine and watching the sun set over the city. It was a fantastic trip.

This weekend we took it easy. Since I just got my motorcycle license, I decided to rent a Harley Sportster from Eagle Rider and check out the canyons. Starting out near LAX, I cruised up the PCH to Topanga Canyon and Sherman Oaks. After a light lunch with Sophia, I headed out again, blasting through Beverly Glen to Mulholland Drive, Coldwater Canyon, Sunset, and then back home via Beverly Glen.

That night we went to a birthday dinner at Chaya in Beverly Hills. It was good, but a bit pretentious for my tastes.

Sunday morning, I woke up ready to ride. After breakfast I headed up Beverly Glen, cut over to Sepulveda via Mulholland, and then cruised down Sunset to the PCH. It’s amazing driving up the PCH with the ocean by your side and the wind in your face as you carve through the curves. I took a break in Malibu and rode to the upper reaches of the Pepperdine campus, where you can see the curvature of the earth over an endless expanse of ocean. After taking in the views, I snaked up Malibu Creek Canyon, hitting 70+ mph before circling back to the PCH via Old Topanga Canyon. Cruising back to Santa Monica, I passed a
Ford GT, one of the most incredible cars ever built, and a couple Rolls Royces. The Sportster was smooth, responsive, and got a lot of attention. I’m really starting to get hooked on bikes.

After dropping off the rental, Sophia and I grabbed lunch at Royal/T, a tea shop/art gallery where Japanese girls in French maid costumes serve sweet teas and finger sandwiches. It felt like a little bit of Tokyo and was so much fun we had to head over to Giant Robot for more anime action. Another great weekend!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Surfing with sharks and riding Harleys

Saturday I went surfing for the first time in months, but right when I stepped in the water I spotted two leopard sharks hanging out about 15 feet offshore. These guys average about 4-5 feet long, so it's a bit freaky when they're right next to you. However, they're totally harmless and generally try to avoid people, so I just kept on surfing.


On Sunday my brother and I rented some Harleys and cruised around the Temecula wine country. I got a Softail Deluxe, which is a 1500cc bike weighing in at 700 pounds. It was my first time on a Harley, but I was suprised by how easy it was to ride. The power was readily available at low RPMs, but not overwhelming. Shifts were solid with a reassuring clank and the cornering was smooth. I only had two complaints; the vibrations got distracting at 60+ mph and the weight of the bike made for a long stopping distance (I locked up the front wheel and skidded a bit when a light went red on me). That said, the vibration would probably be less of an issue on the Dyna bikes, since they have rubber motor mounts. Stopping distance is down to rider experience. All in all, it was a great day and I can't wait to ride a Harley again.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Year in Hollywood


For some reason my little apartment in Hollywood never had a recycling bin, so I just started saving up my wine bottles under the kitchen sink. A year later and I'm moving again, so now I have seventy empty bottles to get rid of. So that's what I've been doing all year...

Anyways, I haven't written in forever so now I'll try to catch up. After Christmas in Vegas, Sophi and I had a pretty quiet and relaxed new year's. The next day when we went to get breakfast, I found that my car was blocked in by a silver Camry I hadn't seen before. As the day went on I started asking around to see whose it was, but no luck. Finally I tried the car doors and started rummaging through the glove box to find the owner. I turned up a name and number so I called the girl; turns out it was a single mom whose car was stolen several days before and abandoned in my parking lot. She only lived a half mile away, so we picked her up, took her to her car, and helped her get situated. She was super happy to have her car back, so that totally made my day.


video

The following weekend I convinced Sophi to go mountain biking down Mt. Wilson. It's kind of a huge ordeal, but so worth it. You have to take two cars, park one by the entrance to Mallard Canyon in Altadena, drive the other with the bikes up the Angeles Crest Highway to Mt. Wilson, bike down to the first car, then drive back to Mt. Wilson to pick up the second car. You end up driving 75 miles in total, but the trail takes you 10 miles though the Angeles Forest, descending 3,700 feet as it winds through several incredible panoramic vistas with views of all of Los Angeles. It’s a really amazing ride. So Sophi and I make our way to Mt. Wilson and start out on the trail. At first it was rough. We were blasted by freezing winds and had to stop to walk our bikes through long patches of snow and ice. However, once we got on the south side of the hill it was sunny, warm, and enjoyable. We cruised down the gravel road, stopped by the Alpine Tavern, and coasted through the evergreen forests. Three miles in though, I asked Sophi if she had the keys to her car at the bottom. Nope. So, we had to split up. Sophi rode the remaining seven miles down to her car while I hiked back through the snow and ice to get to my car. Not quite how I planned for things to go, but it was a great time nonetheless.



Last weekend I moved to my new place in Sherman Oaks. I love it here. It’s so much quieter than Hollywood and my place is huge. I can walk to a ton of great restaurants and my commute is a bit shorter too. So happy. I’ve also started a motorcycle class so I can get my license. I have one class left, then I can start renting bikes and riding with my brother. Can’t wait to tear up some asphalt on a Harley.